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Leadership Experience and Advancement Program in STEM

The Leadership Experience and Advancement Program in STEM (LEAPS) provides scholarships, a unique bridge program, summer research experience, individual mentoring, and career-development opportunities in an effort to build resilience and confidence in future STEM leaders.


As a LEAPS Scholar, you will receive a scholarship of up to $10,000 each year you're at North Central, and that can be combined with any other financial awards you receive. For example, transfer students may be eligible for a Transfer Excellence, Merit, or Success Scholarship, ranging from $23,500 to $28,000 per academic year. Plus, you’ll have opportunities related to your LEAPS activities to receive an additional $6,500 in stipend support for summer activities and leadership development. LEAPS is funded through a grant award to North Central by the National Science Foundation.

LEAPS is more than just a scholarship, though. It is a supported effort to help students maximize their college experience, graduate on time, and prepare for a STEM career.

LEAPS begins with the premise that all students have strengths that can be developed. This strengths-based approach is tailored to your unique abilities, academic preparedness, and career aspirations. By fostering leadership, resilience, and self-efficacy, LEAPS supports your academic journey from Day 1 to graduation. Through summer research, faculty mentorship, and career planning, you will leave North Central with the tools you need to succeed in graduate school or a career in STEM.


All LEAPS scholars must meet the following criteria:

  1. Show high academic promise (minimum GPA of 2.5 preferred)
  2. Be Pell eligible as determined by the submission of a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  3. Major in biology, computer science, environmental science, environmental studies, mathematics, or neuroscience

Note: LEAPS has been designed specifically to benefit transfer students. However, all students who meet the eligibility requirements are encouraged to apply. No preference for transfer status is applied during awarding of scholarships.

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Summer Bridge Program

In the summer prior to the starting semester at North Central, LEAPS Scholars will participate in a twice-a-month summer bridge program that begins your leadership journey! Scholars will build interpersonal relationships, identify their personal strengths, familiarize themselves with campus, and develop a sense of community with other LEAPS Scholars and with the college. Scholars who complete the bridge program will receive $750.

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Summer Research

Before you even begin taking classes at North Central, you have a guaranteed spot to participate in summer research with faculty. This summer experience will be the beginning of your training for a career as a STEM professional. Scholars participating in summer research will receive a $2,250 stipend.

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Mentoring and Advising Program (MAP)

From the moment you’ve been accepted into LEAPS, you will have a team of North Central faculty, staff, and students at your side to personalize and guide you through your experience as a STEM major at North Central. Your MAP team will include faculty from your major, fellow students, and representatives from academic advising, career development, and financial aid. This will ensure you graduate on time while maximizing the opportunities you have at North Central.  

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STEM Leadership Development

From the very beginning of your time as a LEAPS Scholar, you will focus on identifying and using your individual strengths to help you succeed. You will develop a leadership plan with your mentorship team that marks a path to success in course work, extra-curricular activities, and career planning. There is also an opportunity to earn a Leadership Certificate through the Leadership, Ethics, and Values Program after completing certain coursework and activities. If Scholars pursue a curricular leadership program at North Central, they will be invited to apply for a Leadership Fellows Scholarship ($3,500).

How to Apply

The application to become a LEAPS Scholar will be posted in October. You will need a personal statement describing your curiosity, passion, and aspirations in STEM, and a letter of recommendation from a STEM teacher who knows you well. If you are chosen as a semi-finalist, you will be asked to complete a personal interview with the LEAPS selection committee.


  • Fall and/or spring: Attend LEAPS virtual information sessions and visit campus (optional)
  • By Friday, February 9: Apply to North Central for admission and submit official transcripts from all schools attended
  • By Friday, February 23: Receive admission decision and academic scholarship; submit your FAFSA (school code: 001734).
  • By Friday, March 8: Submit LEAPS scholarship application materials through the Academic Works scholarship portal
  • By March 22: Receive LEAPS scholarship decision. You’ll soon after receive a complete financial aid award package, outlining all awarded scholarships.
  • By April 1:  Submit enrollment deposit to North Central and accept LEAPS Scholarship.
  • After April 2: Receive LEAPS Welcome Package:
    • Mentoring team composition
    • A list of summer research opportunities 
    • Prep material for the summer bridge program
    • Advising/course selection details
  • In early May: Register for classes with your MAP Team
  • Summer: Attend the Summer Bridge Program (meetings twice a month beginning in mid-May) and participate in summer research
  • Mid-August: Fall semester begins

Additional Resources


If you have any questions about LEAPS, please feel free to contact Reed Perkins ( or Joanna Weremijewicz (